A proposal to regulate Web traffic put forth by Google and Verizon Monday marks the start of a campaign in earnest to address the sticky issues of “Net Neutrality” facing the Federal Communications Commission.
But the attempt by Google and Verizon to give shape to the “Net Neutrality” issue
was immediately criticized by consumer advocate groups that said the vision outlined by the companies benefited themselves while harming consumers.
Outlined in a blog by Alan Davidson, Google director of public policy, and Tom Tauke, Verizon executive vice president of public affairs, policy, and communications, and then expanded on in a news conference with Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Ivan Seidenberg, Verizon’s chief executive, the proposal called for open access to the Internet and consumer protections in sending and receiving content.
The initiative also proposed that broadband Internet service access providers should be allowed to undertake “reasonable network management” to reduce network congestion and enforce security, and, in general, “best practices adopted by an independent, widely-recognized Internet community governance initiative or standard-setting organization.”
The FCC would not set such rules, but enforce them and be given authority to levy up to $2 million in fines for transgressions.
“It is imperative that we find ways to protect the future openness of the Internet and encourage the rapid deployment of broadband. Verizon and Google are pleased to discuss the principled compromise our companies have developed over the last year concerning the thorny issue of ‘network neutrality,’” Davidson and Tauke wrote in the blog.
However, the SavetheInternet.com Coalition, issued a statement condemning the proposal.
“The Google-Verizon pact isn’t just as bad as we feared — it’s much worse. They are attacking the Internet while claiming to preserve it. Google users won’t be fooled,” said the coalition, which is made up of the groups MoveOn.Org Civic Action, Credo Action, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, ColorofChange.org and Free Press.
The coalition said Google and Verizon are essentially promoting openness in selected areas but allowing restrictions in areas from which they can benefit.
"They are promising Net Neutrality only for a certain part of the Internet, one that they’ll likely stop investing in,” the group said in a statement. “But they are also paving the way for a new 'Internet' via fiber and wireless phones where Net Neutrality will not apply and corporations can pick and choose which sites people can easily view on their phones or any other Internet device using these networks.
"It would open the door to outright blocking of applications, just as Comcast did with BitTorrent, or the blocking of content, just as Verizon did with text messages from NARAL Pro-choice America,” the statement continued. “It would divide the information superhighway, creating new private fast lanes for the big players while leaving the little guy stranded on a winding dirt road.
Craig Aaron, managing director of Free Press,
writing in the Huffington Post, said: “The deal would let ISPs like Verizon -- instead of Internet users like you -- decide which applications deserve the best quality of service.”
The proposal would also allow ISPs “to effectively split the Internet into ‘two pipes’ -- one of which would be reserved for ‘managed services,’ a pay-for-pay platform for content and applications. This is the proverbial toll road on the information superhighway, a fast lane reserved for the select few, while the rest of us are stuck on the cyber-equivalent of a winding dirt road.”
These are just the opening salvos in what promises to be a fervently fought public policy issue in the days to come.